Feinstein Considering Temporary Emergency Measure

March 22, 2008 - 08:17

In the wake of a continued labor crisis, the passage of anti-employer state legislation and the prospect of the social security no-match rule being reissued as early as April, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a strong supporter of the AgJOBS legislation, is gauging support for a temporary emergency measure. The measure would contain most reforms proposed by AgJOBS, but in the context of a temporary program.

While Feinstein and other advocates continue to strongly support the permanent reforms featured in AgJOBS, they are also concerned that enactment of permanent reforms is very unlikely to happen this year, considering the current political and election environment, according to an e-mail sent to ANLA members by Craig J. Regelbrugge, vice president of government relations and research for the association.

Feinstein likes the option of moving a narrower, temporary package if the full reforms cannot be achieved in this Congress. As outlined, the program would provide “experienced but unauthorized farm workers a five year temporary status if they commit to working each year in agriculture, but no direct path to legal permanent residency.” This temporary status would allow the existing trained workforce to remain working under a legal status, while more permanent reforms are still worked out in Congress, according to Regelbrugge’s e-mail.

The temporary measure would also feature streamlining, legal, and other H-2A reforms of AgJOBS.

If Feinstein opts to pursue a temporary measure, the temporary workers’ legal status would end, and the H-2A program would revert to the current program now in place after the specified five years. Therefore, it’s critical that the industry keep pushing for a permanent solution — in the form of AgJOBS.

The employer-based Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, and the farm workers advocates, have indicated to Feinstein that they would support an emergency measure as described if she has the opportunity to offer it during the current session of congress. Nothing has been decided as of yet.

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